Monday, July 9, 2018

Let's Not Forget O.M. Aldrich

Beware of the Merry-Go-Round Operator

In my article The Hanging of Tom Horn, 1903, part of the story is about the quick action of O.M. Aldrich who recaptured Horn on the day that the killer escaped from jail. A few of you have written to ask if I could put it in a stand alone post. Well, here it is. I hope you enjoy the irony as much as I do.

On Sunday, August 9th, 1903, at 8:00 am, Tom Horn and the prisoner in the next cell, a man by the name of McCloud, decided to make their break. During their escape Deputy Sheriff/Jailer R.A. Proctor was beaten and tied up with a window cord. The escapees then went into the Sheriff’s office in search of weapons. As fate would have it, it's said they overlooked a cabinet containing five lever action .30-30 Winchesters rifles.

McCloud ran out a side door leaving Horn to go back to Proctor. Horn snatched a pistol from Proctor, then beat the Deputy in the head and face before running out the side door as well.

According to historian Lee A. Silva, the handgun Tom Horn tried to use during his escape attempt was a John Browning designed, Fabrique Nationale (FN) manufactured, semi-automatic pistol. Tom had never used a semi-auto pistol before and luckily for Deputy Proctor that Horn didn't know how to use it since he would have most likely killed Proctor during his escape.

Horn ran out the same door used by McCloud, but when hearing the Cheyenne Police shoot at McCloud and him surrender, Horn decided to run South and then East toward Capitol Avenue. That's where he ran into big problems with the Merry-Go-Round operator.

Believe it or not, a Merry-Go-Round Operator, actually a Mechanical Engineer,  by the name of O.M. Aldrich spotted Tom Horn running from the jail. Aldrich quickly responded by grabbing his .38 caliber Iver Johnson pocket pistol and lighting out after Horn.

While chasing Horn, Aldrich took a shot at him but sadly missed its mark. The shot is said to have made Horn turn and attempt to return fire. But since Horn didn't know how to operate the semi-automatic pistol, he wasn't able to shoot and kill Aldrich. It's believed it he had known how to operate that semi-auto pistol that Aldrich would have been dead.

Merry-Go-Round Operator Aldrich caught up with Horn and pulled off a round  again. This time his shot is said to have actually creased the top of Horn's head. And as strange as it sounds, this stunned the killer. Believe it or not, it's said that Horn actually became wobbly when shot at. He is said to have actually fainted face first down into the ground.

It's said that Horn tried to regain his feet and get back up. When he did, he again tried to shoot Aldrich who was now almost on him. Again, Horn didn't know how to fire the FN semi-automatic pistol. So no, Tom Horn was not a "weapons expert" by any stretch of the imagination. 

When O.M Aldrich caught up with Tom Horn, he commenced to beat the tar out of the child-killer. In fact, when a mail clerk by the name of Robert LaFontaine showed up to help Aldrich who had tackled Horn, LaFontaine said Aldrich was beating the crap out of the famous killer -- actually clubbing Horn in the back of the head with his little Iver Johnson .38 caliber pocket pistol.

Worn out and beaten, the famous assassin Tom Horn stopped resisting and surrendered to Aldrich and LaFontaine. Horn was lead back to jail by a very large, and very angry, group of townsfolk. The group was soon joined by Cheyenne City Police Officer Otto Aherns, a second officer named Stone and Deputy Leslie Snow.

Many in the group started taunting Horn to make another run for it. Some in the group spit at Horn. A few threw rocks. It's said when Deputy Snow showed up to help escort Horn, he actually tried to bash Horn with his rifle but was stopped by Deputy Proctor.

Some called for a rope. Some were calling for the child-killer to be taken to a nearby tree and lynched. I find it interesting that Deputy Proctor put down any talk of lynching Horn when the crowd outside the jail didn't want to disperse. I also find it interesting that Kels Nickell, the father of the 14-year-old boy who Horn shot twice and killed, was there that day. He's said to have actually tried to  agitate the crowd into lynching Horn. Deputy Proctor is said to have quieted him down as well.

Robert LaFontaine said later that he spent most of his time pulling Aldrich off of Horn for fear the Merry-Go-Round operator was going to kill the assassin. Yes, the Merry-Go-Round Operator whopped the Hell out of the famous bushwhacker Tom Horn!

And as for the man who chased down Tom Horn and beat the tar out of him, Mr. Aldrich was treated as a hero by the folks in that city for many years after that.

As for Horn, for the last few days before his execution armed troops surrounded the block where the jail and courthouse were located and supposedly a Gatling gun was placed on the roof.

Tom Correa

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